Human Rights Action (HRA) and the Women’s Rights Center (WRC) strongly condemn all recent outbursts of hate speech against women, especially to ministers and politicians in Montenegro, in the form of sexist drawings, photomontages and texts that go beyond the measure of criticism allowed by freedom of expression, as their sole purpose is to humiliate personal integrity and violate dignity of women. At the top of such behavior are recent death threats addressed to the Minister of Health and members of her family, as well as the misogynistic text of the former member of the Parliament of Montenegro, journalist Emilo Labudović, published on the IN4S portal on 21 April 2021, entitled “Letters from a village that is no more” (available in Montenegrin language here).
We demand effective reactions of all competent institutions and bodies, in order to establish responsibility and condemn such acts and ensure protection and access to justice to the injured parties.
It is high time we ask ourselves which way we are headed as a society and what kind of legacy are we leaving for future generations if such incidents go unpunished by authorities and/or self-regulatory bodies. Hate speech does not bring anything good, it only provokes new hatred and leads to physical violence. As a state and a society, we have to confront it before it becomes too late.
We reiterate that freedom of expression does not protect satire and caricature when they are an expression of hate speech, suspending any dialogue.
The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention), ratified by Montenegro in 2013, stipulates that states will “take the necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, in particular when creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment, is subject to criminal or other legal sanction”(Article 40).
Our organizations suggest that Montenegro introduces sexual harassment as a criminal offense, and thereby take a resolute stance towards this specific type of violence.
Everyone who wants to engage in political discussion and criticize the views of women politicians has the right to do so and should be allowed to express themselves freely, but not through hate speech.
Publishing expressions that insult human dignity is harmful for community as a whole, since they promote hatred and discourage women and girls from expressing their views and participating in public life, and we as the state and society must confront this.
Tea Gorjanc Prelević, Executive Director of the NGO Human Rights Action
Maja Raičević, Executive Director of the NGO Women’s Rights Center